With the Versiv cabling certification product family released this month, Fluke Networks is recognizing how data-communication installation has changed. Back in the early 1990s, data-com installation typically used a trace instrument that printed on thermal paper. Around 1993, this shifted to a pass/fail handheld tester, and , in 2004, Fluke offerd its DTX link tester, which has since sold more than 60,000 units.
Now, the challenges facing data-com installation also require managing the complexity of the networks (which include copper, fiber, and wireless), and keeping track of the data/testing done and collected. According to Fluke’s data, there is an average of 47 hours wasted (globally) on issues for a normalized 1,000 link job. The top four issues involve project and setup errors/problem, such as copper and fiber cables are tested with wrong limits and have to be retested, or the cable IDs in the reports do not match the specs and need to be manually edited, or even that the test results are stored in multiple testers that have to be located. Fluke has put a cost on this challenge, estimating that the average wasted labor costs (due to project & setup related errors) is $8,800 annually per contractor. (See Table)
After collecting this data, Fluke’s design teams set out to save their customers this $8800. While the focus of the DTX testers was to save time on testing/troubleshooting, this next iteration of testers would also improve planning, setup, reporting, and system acceptance.
I spoke with Robert Luijten, Fluke Networks’ EMEA marketing manager and Jason R. Wilbur, vice president & general manager: DCI about the new family of Versiv cable certification testers, that were designed to help data communications installers more quickly achieve system acceptance for copper and fiber jobs. The Versiv testers feature interchangeable modules for copper, fiber and optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) testing. In addition, they feature software (ProjX™ management system) that is designed to speed test time and accuracy, and simplify test setup, planning and reporting. Luijten noted that the Cat 6A test (for running 10G over copper) is now twice as fast as it was on the DTX, and performing a bi-directional test is 4X faster than DTX. The testers are also equipped with a “Fix Later” notation, for issues that would require a more experienced employee to solve.
A cool feature about this instrument is that it transforms itself depending on the module. The main unit includes the processor, the data storage, the interface to the outside world, and the user interface. All of the measurement electronics are stored in the particular module (see Figure).
The project manager can set up and store a test in the unit. The unit itself can handle 100 projects simultaneously. The project screen shows the most relevant data, and the user can scroll down to see the rest of the data. All of the project data (from multiple testers) comes together in the LinkWare management software, making it possible to generate one report (can be output on a USB stick). The user interface has pinch and zoom features, and offers drill down measurements.
For example, a set reference wizard guides technicians through setting references and checking test reference cords. (According to Luijten, this is a common point of error.)
The team at Fluke Networks also tried to steel their new instruments against future needs. For example, tomorrow’s requirements may well include shield test and balance measurements. The Versiv tester can show which end of the cable connection has the poor shield and isolates alien crosstalk (which is often the cause of links not running at full speed). This test could prove important for troubleshooting 10G links. The Versiv tester can also be used to perform precision resistance tests, which would confirm if a cable was damaged during installation. Luijten noted that the precision resistance test is in the specifications, but has long been ignored because it was impossible to do with a field tester, only with lab equipment. “This is the first time in history this can be done with a field tester,” says Luijten.
P&A: Starting price for the DSX-5000 is approximately $11,000 USD, but will vary based on options, duties, an freight.
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